Awards and citations:


1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for investdrinks.org

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award




Thursday, 12 April 2012

Campogate: Robert Parker's 'car crash'

"What a fine mess I've made of this!"


The summary report on the investigation by Cozen O’Connor and Kroll Associates into Campogate/No Pay No Jay has some devastating findings and conclusions amongst its measured tones.

Although Pancho Campo MW and Jay Miller are obvious losers, it is Robert Parker’s reputation that takes by far the biggest hit. In short ‘Campogate’ has shown that Parker’s administration and public relation skills are woefully inadequate. The report demonstrates that the management of the world’s most influential wine critic and The Wine Advocate team would make Heath Robinson proud. 

Parker bears the major responsibility both for the genesis of Campogate and for all the avoidable damage it has done to brand Parker and his Wine Advocate. In order to recoup some of the thousands spent on an investigation,  Parker and The Wine Advocate should offer this sorry saga to PR guru Max Clifford as an abject lesson in how not to do ‘crisis management’. 

The report makes ten recommendations – surely a remarkable number for an investigation of this kind. One crucial one, however, is missing: that Parker becomes chairman of the board and appoints as managing director someone who has both managerial and public relations skills. This would allow Parker to concentrate on his strengths: tasting and writing about wine.

The genesis of this débâcle dates back to November 2009 and Wine Future Rioja. 

Was it ever going to be sensible to appoint a non-Spanish speaker – Jay Miller – to give the increased coverage to Spanish wines that Parker wanted? Probably it wouldn’t have been a problem if Miller’s role had been just to taste samples in the US. Instead, Miller was dispatched to make frequent visits to Spain, thus requiring a Spanish-speaking guide and organizer.

I guess after the adulation of WineFuture Rioja in November 2009 and being well paid for his participation (entirely appropriate as Parker was the headlining act and without him both editions of Wine Future would have had much less impact) it must have seemed to him a smart move to ask Campo to organize Miller’s Spanish visits.

But was it a really that bright to appoint someone who at that very moment was wanted by Interpol (a notice only downgraded in July 2010) for absconding from a conviction for fraud in Dubai in 2003? Furthermore, as the report notes:

‘Robert Parker and the staff at The Wine Advocate placed Campo – someone with ‘a myriad, legitimate commercial relationships with wineries across Spain – in a position that provided him with an opportunity to exert some control over Miller’s itinerary in Spain without adequately briefing him about The Wine Advocate’s strict standards safeguarding its independence. Furthermore, Jay Miller did not speak Spanish, and, as a result, was dependent on Campo to make all arrangements with minimal oversight from The Wine Advocate. This difficulty was exacerbated by Miller’s lack of knowledge and interest regarding the details of Campo’s negotiations.’

Given all this, it is utterly astounding that Parker accepted invoices from Campo and The Wine Academy of Spain (TWAS) without any documentation, as the report states. ‘TWAS submitted its expenses to
The Wine Advocate on a single invoice with no supporting documentation – i.e., no actual receipts of its or Jay Miller’s expenses in Spain.’ This from a man convicted of trousering $600,000 from his former business partner! 

Little surprise then that problems arose:

The investigation concluded that, whether intentionally or not, Campo blurred the lines between tastings for rating in The Wine Advocate and TWAS-sponsored private events.

An early example of the blurring of ‘the lines between tastings for rating in The  Wine Advocate and TWAS-sponsored events‘ came in July 2011 with the July 2011 visit to Navarra.  In August 2011 Mercados del Vino y la Distribución reported that the visit to Navarra by Jay Miller and Pancho Campo MW had cost the region €100,000 and included a master class for which Miller was apparently paid $15,000. Chris Kissack (The Wine Doctor) reported that:

‘Parker’s response was to indicate that it was a paid lecture, and it was $15,000, not €100,000, and “and where is there any conflict? He, as all of us do, are paid to give lectures“. “I can’t possibly see any conflict with what Jay has done, but if you actually know anything, I am all ears“.  

Recommendation 8 (Cozen O’Connor): Refuse to allow contractors to conduct private events while travelling for The Wine Advocate.

Irrespective of whether Parker was shooting from the hip or commenting with the full facts at his disposal, his remarks may well have indicated to Campo and Miller that Parker saw no conflict of interest in having private paid events tacked onto Wine Advocate visits.

On 26th October 2011 Vincent Pousson published on Facebook the now famous ASEVIN tariff for tastings and visits by Jay Miller and Pancho Campo. Shortly afterwards I published further emails that Harold Heckle and I had obtained that supported the email published by Pousson and provided further information. ‘Campogate’ had begun. 

Had Parker been media-savvy he could have stepped in at the beginning of November and publicly launched an investigation into the Murcia/ASEVIN emails, saving himself much grief and money. Instead he allowed the situation to fester and get worse, due, I assume, to an unfortunate siege mentality that any criticism seeks to undermine him and is motivated by envy. 
  
Further Parker inspired PR disasters followed at the beginning of December after our publication of the emails around the abortive proposed visit to DO Vinos de Madrid. On 1st December Parker claimed in relation to the ASEVIN emails that:

‘This blogger posted about Miller/Campo charging for tasting Spanish wines or for visiting Spanish wineries a while ago. We launched an investigation at that time despite the fact that both Miller/Campo denied all the allegations. We found no substance or truth to any of the allegations.’


As well as threatening me with legal action over the new Madrid allegations, Parker launched a four-month legal investigation that presumably cost  thousands, which backed up what the ASEVIN emails had shown:

‘There was plainly an early attempt by ASEVIN to solicit such contributions’ (page 4, Cozen O’Connor).

Another claim made in Parker’s outburst was also shown to be wrong: 

‘Jay chooses and controls 100% of the wines he tastes and wineries he visits.’ (RP). ‘According to Jay Miller, he typically provided a list of wineries to Campo that would fill approximately 75% of his schedule; this left a portion of his schedule (approximately 25%, by Miller’s estimation; much lower by Campo’s estimation) to be completed with recommendations from Campo. (The investigation confirmed that no one else at The Wine Advocate was aware of Campo’s significant role in proposing wineries to visit.)’ (Page 3).

It looks to me like an awful lot of money has been spent to demonstrate managerial incompetence and that you don’t know what is going on in your business.

Parker’s announcement and the DO Viños de Madrid emails merely fanned the internet ‘explosion’ as well as a rising tide of criticism in Spain. Just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse Parker capped it all on 4th December by baldly announcing that Jay Miller was leaving The Wine Advocate. Although Miller’s departure had apparently been long arranged, it was widely assumed that he had been sacked. Parker gave the appearance of being entirely oblivious to the effect that his announcement was bound to have in the fevered atmosphere of the time.

How far ‘Campogate’ has damaged Parker’s reputation and that of The Wine Advocate remains to be seen, but what is clear is that most of the damage has been largely inflicted by Parker himself. It has certainly demonstrated that the administration and management of Team Parker is a ramshackle affair. This might be hubristically amusing if Parker and The Wine Advocate did not have the power to make the reputations and fortunes of wine producers as well as very significantly influence the wine investment market.    



Pancho Campo MW
Pancho Campo will doubtless trumpet that he has been cleared by the investigation citing ‘no evidence of actual impropriety’. However, the blame for the ‘appearance of impropriety’ is largely laid at Campo’s door and ‘sever relations with Pancho Campo and The Wine Academy of Spain (TWAS)‘ is the report’s very first recommendation. (So much for Campo’s allegation of ‘disgusting attacks’ somewhat supinely reported last week by Harpers.)

One crucial question remains unanswered in the report: did ‘the blurring of the lines between tastings for rating in The Wine Advocate and TWAS-sponsored private events’ mean that Spanish wine regions had to accept, or thought they had to accept, the TWAS-sponsored private events in order to have a visit from Jay Miller and for their wines to be rated in situ? Email evidence relating to the proposed trip by Miller and Campo in the summer of 2011 to DO Viños de Madrid suggests that this was the case but is not mentioned in the report.   

Campo has acknowledged that wine no longer holds the financial rewards it did and is attempting to resuscitate his career by returning to music and sports promotion as well as deluxe lifestyle events under the Charade Management umbrella (‘can’t these bloggers get anything right?’ – special representative for Marbella – ‘it’s Chrand Management SL – director: Pancho Campo.)


Jay Miller
From the report, Jay Miller appears to have stumbled around Spain in ‘don’t ask questions’ mode.

‘Furthermore, Jay Miller did not speak Spanish, and, as a result was dependent on Campo to make all the arrangements with minimal oversight from The Wine Advocate. This difficulty was exacerbated by Miller’s lack of knowledge and interest regarding the details of Campo’s negotiations.' 

Miller had power of veto over Campo’s suggestions of wines and wineries to visit but never used it. ‘Although Miller always retained “veto” over wines and wineries suggested by Campo – and thereby ultimate control over his itinerary – Miller admitted that he never had reason to exercise this power with any of Campo’s recommendations.’

‘Thus, while this investigation revealed no evidence of actual impropriety, we believe the dynamic of Miller and Campo’s collaboration in Spain –  even if undertaken with the best of intentions – created an appearance of impropriety.’


***



One of Spain's leading wine critics, Andrés Proensa (www.proensa.com), gives his verdict on Campogate and has a look at Charade Management in this article.  

 

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jim:

Great entry. The only part that I disagree is the need for Miller or any wine reviewer to be fluent in Spanish to organize trips and visit Spanish wineries OR DO's. I have visited Spain many times and based on my experience I would say that in this day and age at least 90% of the wineries in Spain have someone that speaks English and could communicate with Miller if necessary. In the case of a winery not having someone that spoke English, there are DO representatives that could take care of the task if it was required. That is part of the work those folks are paid for by the wineries. There is also the importers who represent the winery in the US that could aid in the translation if necessary. As far as I know Martin does not speak any Spanish and he was able to manage on his own during a recent trip to Catalonia without a baby sitter. The same appkies to Squires and his trips to Portugal. Many wine reviewers that go to Spain, Italy or France do not speak the native language and they are still able to do their job competently. Either Miller was to lazy to do it on his own or Parker felt he had to return the favor of Campo hiring him for the Wine Future event and this was his way of thanking him.

Jim Budd said...

Anon. Thanks. Clearly if you are visiting vineyards around the world it is impossible, except possibly for a very gifted linguist, to be able to speak all the languages of the countries you visit.

However, if you are focusing on a particular region I think it is essential to be able to speak the language. Translation, however good, is not the same and often the translation is poor. Speaking the language gives you an insight into the culture.

Miller was made responsible for three Spanish speaking wine countries – Argentina, Chile and Spain – yet couldn't speak Spanish.

I suspect that Neal Martin's Spanish will improve dramatically over the next year or so.

Luc Charlier said...

You know I enjoy commenting upon events. “This Blogger” ’s comment on O’ Connor and Kroll’s summary report is both comprehensive and clever. Full marks: congratulations.

On the other hand, what are the “great” vineyards of the world?
France and French-speaking Switzerland : I manage
Germany, Austria and Süd-Tyrol: German spoken (Luxemburg too)
Spain and Latin-America: we make do, albeit not fluently
Portugal: idem
Italy: passive (reading and understanding) OK
Australia, South-Africa, US, NZ ....: English no problem (+ Afrikaans !)
So, we’re down to just Slovenia, Romania, Croatia, Lebanon, The Crimea ... were this LC is not adequate. I suggest they hire ME !
Unfortunately, I’ve got other businesses to attend ......

Jim Budd said...

Luc. Thanks but few are as gifted in languages as you.

Anonymous said...

"as well as deluxe lifestyle events under the Charade Management umbrella..."
Se dice Chrand, y no Charade, infórmese bien y no cometa faltas de ortografía si quiere seguir en su línea señor Budd. Se nota que tiene un amor eterno al señor Pancho, no tiene otra ocupación en su vida? Me gustaría saber como saca tanto tiempo para escribir sobre Pancho y quien le paga para poder seguir viviendo y comiendo, estaría bien que algún dia fuese y se dedicara a algo más serio. Un saludo señor Budd...

Jim Budd said...

Anon.

Many thanks for your most helpful comment on Charade management SL – sorry Chrand Management I'll get the name of this new company right soon!

Perhaps you could help further? Is Pancho Campo MW Charade's sole director pleasse? Oops there I go again!

Also do you know why Pancho appears to have stopped using MW please?

Many thanks in advance for your further assistance. Jim

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work, Jim!

It is only with your persistence and attention to detail that all the murky details have emerged on the activities of the Wine Academy and the founder.

It seems you have rattled someone´s cage.

Jim Budd said...

Anon. Many thanks. I wonder if our Spanish friend is the same person who cast doubt on the MW qualification in a series of comments recently.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Budd, I have just signed a letter, together with another 148 prestigious wineries and wine organizations:
1. Condemning your attacks on Mr. Campo and his family;
2. Expressing our solidarity and support to him and The Wine Academy;
3. Offering to testify in their favor should be needed.
We unanimously believe that it is time for you
to cease and desist.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Budd, I have just signed a letter, together with another 148 prestigious wineries and wine organizations:
1. Condemning your attacks on Mr. Campo and his family;
2. Expressing our solidarity and support to him and The Wine Academy;
3. Offering to testify in their favor should be needed.
We unanimously believe that it is time for you
to cease and desist.

Jim Budd said...

Anon.

Many thanks for this, although I'm slightly confused is this 149 wineries and organisations or 297 wineries and organisations including yourself.

Are you not also supporting Charade Management (aka Chrand Management)?

Will be very happy to post your letter and the list of wineries here on Jim's Loire if you think that this might be useful.

Ian S said...

Yes anon, we'd love to see this letter.

What I find odd, is that whilst you're willing to put your name to this letter, you're unwilling to put your name to your post(s) here. This seems rather odd.

regards
Ian

Jim Budd said...

Ian. I agree it does seem odd. However, I note that the two messages were sent around midnight and that they might have been influenced by a slightly over-zealous sipping of Malaga.

As you say I look forward to receiving a copy of this letter and the lengthy list of signatories.

Interesting the use of 'cease and desist' suggesting American origins or American influence.

I suppose it is possible that Charade Management (aka Chrand Management) might be able shed some light on this matter as they may have heard word of the letter.

Gerry Dawes said...

Jim, Could you please send me the list of 149 "prestigious wineries and wine organizations?" I would like to offer my opinions on the prestigiosity of said wineries, orgs, etc. And I would like to know in whose eye these exalted signatories are "prestigious." Pancho Campo's eyes? Jay Miller's, for example? It would seem by signing such a letter they are voluntarily alignin themselves with individuals who have fallen from grace with the wine Gods. I certainly hope that these 149 signatures, count 'em 149, did not sign as "Anonymous." That would be highly suspect, would it not?

Jim Budd said...

Gerry. Would be delighted to send it but unfortunately I don't have it as anon never sent it. Still awaiting letter and list. Jim

WineLush said...

Somehow I think Anon's protest letter with 148 other wine affiliated companies & organizations will be as forthcoming as legal action against Mr. Budd as stated by Mr. Campo.

Jim Budd said...

WineLush. I fear you may be right. In which case I suspect that a number of us will be considerably disappointed. It may, however, appear in Harpers.

Ian S said...

Now taking bets... which will arrive first?

a) The letter from these 149 wineries

b) An apology letter from Robert Parker for alleging Jim wasn't prepared to speak to Bob's lawyers.

c) An unseasonal frost in hell

Jim Budd said...

ian. Sadly c) has already arrived, so the odds now must be long on the first two options. I wonder what odds Mystic meg is offering?

Joey said...

The Hosemaster of Wine has spoken:

http://hosemasterofwine.blogspot.com/2012/04/parkergate-results-of-investigation-are.html

Jim Budd said...

Decidedly disappointed that there is as yet no sign of the famous letter with 149 signatories mentioned for the first time a week ago.